Or not remembering her, as this letter in the Guardian points out.
The 50th birthday of the National Theatre has provoked much celebration, programmes, books, the parade of successive male artistic directors, anecdotes from star performers, a lot of mutual back-slapping and, in some cases, back-stabbing.
Simon Callow had high praise for Michael Blakemore’s book Stage Blood (Review, 16 November), which raises the curtain on some nastier aspects of theatre life. However, Blakemore is too preoccupied fighting the bigger boys for the limelight to notice that there are no women’s parts in his drama. Jocelyn Herbert has a bit part and Gillian Diamond a walk on. When it comes to two outstanding dames, he deals with them briefly, describing a farewell party at the Old Vic: “Peggy Ashcroft impersonated Lilian Baylis … it was a complete surprise to see her being so funny, sketching with a sure hand Miss Baylis’ cockney accent and physical peculiarities”.
Baylis ran the Old Vic and Sadler’s Wells. She engaged Ninette de Valois and thereby was responsible for the founding of the National Theatre and the Royal Ballet. I believe it was her legacy that was being fought over and which Olivier had inherited. She launched the careers of Olivier, Richardson, Gielguid, Ashcroft, Redgrave, Thorndyke, Edith Evans, Guinness and many more. She died in 1937, aged 63. There is no memorial at her grave and none at the National Theatre, other than a terrace named after her, and there has been no programme about her as part of the celebrations. It is time this remarkable woman was awarded the tribute due to her. A word from Blakemore or Callow might have helped.
Really. We see so much shouting and complaining about efforts to remember to invite women to contribute, write, speak, manage, run, instead of just letting nature take its course and the best rise to the top on its own, like cream – when women who do rise to the top get brushed aside and forgotten.